Monday, 25 March 2013

KOP: Your Personal Brand By Tiffany & Co.

This is the next in the developing a Killer Online Platform series. For those of you who have been following the series, you will know that it's taken me quite a while to actually write this post. The reason? Personal branding is hard!
There are a lot of websites out there that will give you helpful information like 'Think about what's most important about you', and 'Write down how other people see you and how you want them to see you.' And bam, there is your personal branding.
Well, take a few minutes and actually do this.
What do you come up with?
Me, I came up with useless trosh, basically. It wasn't anything I could actually use. They were terms that were meaningless in an online branding sort of way.
Yes, personal branding needs to be a combination of how you want to be seen with a good dose of realism in there about how people actually see you. However, it needs to be a LOT more than that to be effective.
So, instead of just trotting out those 'useful' little steps, I thought I would take you through one of the best bits of branding around, and reverse engineer how we can be as famous and emotive as Tiffany & Co.
The Pull of Tiffany & Co.
As most of you know, it was my 30th Birthday on 10th of March. Reaching 30 is not a major achievement in my life, but it did mark a transition into a new stage which I am very excited about.

My mother asked me what I wanted for my birthday and after some thought I replied: A Tiffany & Co. ring.

I have to admit, I hadn't particularly thought of which one of their range I wanted, but I knew I wanted Tiffany. (When you get to 30 and are still single, it's time to realise you can't rely on a man to buy your Tiffany, you sometimes just have to do it for yourself... though I don't quite know what it means getting your parents to do it for you!)

I finally decided on the Tiffany 1837 collection, interlocking rings in silver. Gorgeous, classic, timeless. 

I had the box just sitting on my chest of drawers, waiting all week until Sunday. The girls at work asked me to bring in the box, just so they could look at it.
You know the one. The classic blue box with white ribbon.

And that brings me to an important question. Why Tiffany?

Really, are the rings more beautiful than something I could have bought somewhere else? Well, no.
And I didn't even know which rings I wanted in the first place!

So why did I want it? Why do we pay so much for the blue box with white ribbon? Why did I feel I should dress up, have good nails, before walking in through the doors like Audrey Hepburn?


Sad as it is to say, it's all about how Tiffany & Co. has presented itself to me. They have made even the name desirable, so they could put it on anything and some of us would want it. The wrapping that the item comes in is a branding triumph, and even going into their shop is 'an experience' (maybe not so much anymore, I have to admit, as I found the service staff a bit snobbish until they realised I was actually going to buy something, and then tried to up sell to me, but you get my point.)

This is what you want your online platform to become. You want people to desire your writing, your books, before they even know what it is, just because you wrote it. You want people to be able to recognise your work anywhere, every time they see it, and associating it with something good.

So, how do you do that?

1. It's All About The Story.

A lot of the personal branding information out there will tell you to choose a central concept for your brand. This is reasonable advice because a lot of people try to cover way too much and their message becomes diluted.

However, it's much easier to start with a story. People love stories.

If you go to the Tiffany's website you will find a page specifically called 'The Tiffany Story'.
It states: Since 1837, the masterpieces of Tiffany & Co. have defined style and celebrated the world's great love stories.

Great love stories? And all the girls go 'Ahhhh...'

That is not just a central concept, it is in itself a whole masterpiece of emotion. Style, Audrey Hepburn, engagement rings, men down on one knee, diamonds glittering...

That is brilliant branding.

So, first step is to work out what your story is, and what emotions it might evoke in your readers so that they connect to you on a more personal level.

Have fun with this. Go through your past history, what has formed you into the writer you are now? What does your unique background offer that no one else can claim?

I want you to get pen and paper (or computer) and for a moment, choose 5 different parts of your background. take 5 minutes each, and scribble down a story about your writing based on that part of your history. Which one is the most emotive and in line with the style/purpose of your writing?


2. Create The 'Elevator Pitch' of your personal brand.

As writers, you should know the importance of having an elevator pitch for your book. It is a short 'hook' for your story, ready and waiting for that one time you happen to find yourself in the elevator with a publisher from HarperCollins.

Now you need to develop the same thing for your story.

You just need to do what Tiffany did, and compress your story down into one sentence.

For example: 'For the last decade, Miriam Blakewood has been at the centre of every scandalous revelation from Liechtenstein's high society.' (Yeah, I'm making it up as I go along, but if you were interested in stories about high society, wouldn't you be interested in buying her books?)

Or 'After her successful career as an Olympic athlete, Miriam Blakewood now brings you everything you need to know about personal fitness in her sporting blog.' (Ooo, Olympic athlete... I could be that fit too?)

Or even 'With three teenage daughters growing up in central London, Miriam Blakewood is an expert at espionage and creative thinking.'

3. How To Project This.

The point of a 'story' is that it evokes emotions and atmosphere in a few words. However, to make this as effective as possible, you want to back it up visually.

Look at the Tiffany white and blue. If you saw just the corner of the blue box poking out of your boyfriend's jacket, what might you think?

Image if someone could walk into a book store, and just see the corner of a book, and immediately know a) it was yours and b) they wanted it! (along with a hot bubble bath and a glass of wine to enjoy it).

To get to that effect, you need to have a uniform branding across absolutely everything you present to the public.

Look at every contact you make professionally: your blog, facebook page, linkedIn, website, book covers, resumes, business card, email address, etc.

You need to make all of these scream the essence of your story at every turn. This is why we are doing this now, before actually setting up your blog, because your blog needs to be the epitome of your story.

So, what do you need to consider?

- Fonts, do you have a distinct font you always use? Can you find one?
(I recommend trying While there are a lot of free fonts out there, the thing I like about this page the most is that it allows you to put your own text in (such as your name) and see all the fonts at once. Compare this to seeing the font, needing to click on it, then typing in your text only to find they have completely bizarre 'B's.)

- Logo? Can you express your story in a single image?
This might require the hire of a graphic designer, but you might be able to find a talented friend who will help you in exchange for some proof reading.

- Colour scheme?
A signature colour scheme for your website, which you can then use on your business card, and in your logo (or take it from your logo) is an excellent way to build more atmosphere into your brand.
Dark red and black will have a very different feel to bright yellow and pink.

- Can you link your books by a particular cover art theme?
Think of Terry Pratchett, who has basically only had 2 cover artists do all of his books. They are immediately identifiable on a bookshelf as his. (Of course, you won't have as much control over this if you are going with a traditional publisher and are pretty new, but keep it in mind all the same).

Now go ahead and spend some creative hours playing with who you are and what you want to be!

What other ways can you think of for building your brand?

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Power Words Exercise

Take a pill note
Courtesy of Darrendean at stock.xchng

Continuing on in my Wednesday Writing Exercise theme today I want to give you an exercise to make you focus on the power of the written word. 

Tomorrow, I want you to write a note to someone and in as few words as possible, completely change their day. 

Simple. Right? Yeah, okay, you're not going to fall for that one.

Yes, it is going to be hard, but you can do it, you're a writer!

Here are just some suggestions:

I'm not a big fan of the 'I love you', unless it is really actually going to mean something to them, because it's been a bit overused and killed. 

'I'm having your baby' would obviously work in some situations, but I don't want you to lie.

The good old 'by the way, I'm not wearing any underwear' might be of use for those of you who are married. 

But even in the most banal cases, such as writing on a group birthday card, as a writer you have an obligation (I believe, and try to live up to) to make the most of each written word you give to someone else. You have been gifted in choosing the right word for the right time to evoke an emotional response. 

Don't forget that. 

Practice it as much as you can. 

And yes, it can be easier to evoke a response by wounding someone, ripping out their heart and handing it back to them, but I would prefer if you stayed positive. 

So, go ahead and try it. One note, change their day. 

ROW 80 Check In
For those who have been following my blog, you will notice that I haven't posted anything on this blog or my other one since last Wednesday, even missing my Sunday check in.
Have to admit, the day after I got my book out, I totally crashed (emotionally speaking, not physically like last time I fell off my bike). It was quite unexpected and really threw me. Am still slowly trying to claw my way back. So apologies everyone.
However, considering we are almost at the end of this round, I feel I should set some kind of goal. 

So, by Sunday I want to have rewritten the beginning of my NaNoWriMo romance: After the Winter. I sat down two nights ago to start reading through it again (not having touched it since the end of November, but with fond memories) to find that beginning was... well... to be blunt, it was crap. There were some good ideas and passages interspersed with a lot of 'oh my goodness, I actually wrote that? I thought those words would join together to make a sentence an English speaker would understand and relate to?' as well as a complete lack of intelligible pacing. It was sad. Very sad.

For a while I thought about ending it all! (Well, the book at least) But walking home tonight from work I was listening to Writing Excuses, the podcast, and they were talking about beginnings, and it got me thinking about how to restart mine. 

Their great bits of advice:
1. Come in late, get out early for each scene.
2. Make sure the setting and tone of the novel is introduced in the beginning. 
3. Come in right when the 'change' that motivates the story is happening. 
4. make sure there is motion in the first section. 

So, keeping all of that in mind, I'll see what I can do over the next few days. 

Anyone else got great advice on how to write a good beginning scene? 
(I've got some great advice on how not to, if anyone is interested :D)

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Mindfulness Writing

True Happiness InnerPeace  1
Courtesy of tung072 at stock.xchng

Today I'm combining my ROW80 check-in with a new series on writing exercises. 

I'm challenging myself to come up with new and exciting writing exercises for you each Wednesday, to keep you motivated and thinking like a writer. 

So, today's exercise is based on the theme of 'mindfulness'. 

Your challenge, if you choose to accept it:

Download one of the mindfulness bell apps (such as Mindfulness Bell for Android (free) or Lotus Bud Mindfulness for Apple (free)) and set it to randomly chime throughout the day. 

Wherever you are, when you hear that chime you need to do one of two things:

1. If you can, pull out a pen and paper or open a blank word document and quickly describe your surroundings through the eyes of someone else. It could be a five year old that has come to sit at Daddy's desk for 'Bring Your Daughter To Work Day', or even an 80 year old who has come back to visit and is thinking how different it is to when they used to work there. 

2. If you can't physically write it down, at least try to capture in words some of the key points. 

The aim is to a) get you looking at your surroundings like a writer, and b) start thinking in words, and how to choose the right words to describe things.

If you can, do it for at least one day a week. (The bell rings numerous times throughout the day, you need to do it each time it rings). 

ROW 80 goals:

My goal was just to relax after the book launch, which I have sort of done. 

Well, sort of. I spent a lot of time thinking about where I'm going next, and how I can develop and do it all better. 

As this is almost the end of this round of ROW80, I think it's a great time to evaluate how the round has gone, and where I can go next!
As mentioned in my last post, I'm going to experiment with a slightly new direction, with a focus on developing the skills of the writing industry, on top of those of actually being able to write, which is quite exciting. 

So, keep reading for great content, new designs, and information on how to be the best possible writer you can be!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Continuing Development of 100 First Drafts

trees in fall. 

Here in Melbourne it's the beginning of Autumn (not that you could tell from the heatwave). This time of year is all about change. And 100 First Drafts is no exception. 
The last few weeks have taught me something very interesting.

I am a very good writer, but very inexperienced publisher/promoter.
I just have so much to learn about self-publishing well. Publishing The Five Day Writer's Retreat was an interesting experience, but a very steep learning curve! So, before I get onto the next one, I want to try and understand a bit more.
Further, my work has breathed a sigh of relief, 'she has published her book, so now she will be happy to come back and work full time.' Our previous wonderful agreement that allowed me to do 2.5 hours of writing in the morning has been reneged. They have left me with little choice but to go back to full time work. 

It is nice to be loved, but seriously people?

So, what to do when there is more to learn and less time to do it in? 

Well, continuing to write without being able to properly publish the works seems a little unproductive. Instead, if I spend the next while developing my online platform and learning how to promote and publish, then when I settle back into my lifestyle of prolific writing I will be able to actually do something with it, which will be exciting.

So, for the next little while I’m going to put writing more on the back burner (but as I told everyone in The Five Day Writer’s Retreat, it is still important to keep practicing writing almost everyday, but blogging counts) and make learning about the business of writing my focus.
What does this mean for 100 First Drafts? I am becoming more writer focused! I will be doing less of my own writing, but more to help me and you succeed once we've written.  

I'm going to be passing on all the wisdom that I work out through trial and error about the actual business of being a writer online. 

You can expect to hear more about:

building an online platform
marketing and promotions
developing networks with other writers
and building an efficient business.

I want to get to the stage that I can say ‘this book is going to be ready to be published in 2 months’, and there will be strategies set up to see that when it comes out, it has more exposure than if I had traditionally published it. And I want to pass all that information on to you, so you can do it too.
The first step is to continue with my Killer Online Platform series. I am currently working on the post about Personal Branding, which is a lot hard than you would think! But hopefully I will have it ready for you in a day or two. Until then, keep up the writing!

Another change you will notice soon is that 100 First Drafts will be moving onto its own domain! Hopefully you will be automatically redirected, but just keep an eye out for 

Also, all writers who want to add in their tips are most welcome!


Sunday, 10 March 2013

Finally! It's Released!

My book. Listed on Amazon. For the world to buy!

Pretty big day, I tell you.

And I think I have everything actually working!

My first ever self-published book: available for sale here, on my webpage and on Amazon!

I have just sent out the Broadcast message giving a free copy to everyone who has signed up to The Five Day Writer newsletter.

And I'm now 30.

So, all in all, success.

Now to enjoy my birthday party and then collapse.

Still time to join up to the newsletter at and receive a free copy.

Or, if you want to pay the $34.95 for the work, I would be more than happy to help you out!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The Five Day Writer's Retreat - Just a Few Days Away!

It's now just a few days until the release of my first book: The Five Day Writer's Retreat!!

Sunday, 10th of March, my 30th Birthday, is the big day. 

So, to get you all as excited about the book as I am, I wanted to share an extract from it on Goal Setting. I thought this was particularly apt, as this is also my ROW 80 goal check in!

This is from Day Four of the Retreat, and hopefully it will inspire you to look again at some of the goals you have for the year.

By the way, it helps if you have seen the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark. So in case you haven't:

Day 4: Preparing Your Life

Food For Thought Part 1: Goal Setting. 

There is a lot of information out there about how to set good goals, and for unknown reasons a lot of that information sets my teeth completely on edge. Yes, I know they should be ‘Specific – Measurable – Attainable – Realistic – Timely’ (aka SMART), but who wants to be smart when setting goals? 

I think goal setting, at least the big, end goals, should be more like an Indiana Jones movie than a business plan. 

How does my little analogy work? Follow me! 

You should first see the goal in front of you like an idol. Can you see it? Gleaming on its little pedestal asking to be reached? Good.

Now, look at the bag of sand you have been carrying and work out if you have enough sand for the weight of your goal. The sand is every day material that you will need to give up: time, resources, money, etc. How heavy is your idol? How much will you have to hand over in order to achieve it? Do you have enough?

You are tense for a little bit as you slowly place the sand for the goal and rejoice when you pull it free – you have just agreed to a goal you think you can achieve.  

But wait! That is not the end. You still need to get out of the cave with your goal to realize it. It doesn't count until you are safely back home with the idol. And everyone knows it's once you have decided on a goal that everything in your life tries to stop you from achieving it. 

You start running. Then comes your first pit with stakes or snakes (not snacks as I originally wrote, unless tempting snacks are likely to distract you from your goal…hmmm, snacks…). 

Some kindly person yells to you that you should throw them your goal and they will give you the mundane life item to get you across this barrier. Maybe they say to give up the goal for a sensible job, just for a bit so you can pay the bills. 

Do you throw them the idol? Well, if you do, you still have to get out of the cave alive, and you no longer achieve anything at the end!
Maybe you are brave and you keep hold of it, working out some way through yourself. But then life might throw a giant, rolling boulder at you. Just remember, as long as you are running towards the entrance, it is all good, just don’t forget your hat.
Of course, when you break out with your goal, there will be a thousand people pointing arrows and spears of criticism that want to cut you down to size, so it is always best to have an escape plan such as your own plane that you can fly off and enjoy your achievement.
That is the way I think goals should be handled. So much more exciting and adventurous than being SMART. 

Also, if you create a goal that isn’t worth the sand you are swapping for it, or risking your life to cross the pit for, or even facing all the tribesmen wanting to kill you, then you haven’t really got a good enough goal. Stick with your sand and your day job.

Hope that gave you some inspiration for setting a new goal!

My goals for this week is simply to do as much as I can to improve the book before release, and then sit back and enjoy my 30th Birthday :D

If you would like a gift copy of The Five Day Writer's Retreat, you can still sign up to the newsletter at until 17th of March to receive it free. Or you are more than welcome to buy it. I am still offering a personal appraisal of your writing with every purchased copy, just to encourage you to take your writing seriously.

Sales will (hopefully, fingers crossed) go live on Sunday, 7pm Melbourne Australia time. You will be able to purchase it through The Five Day Writer website or on Amazon initially. I'm also planning on getting it on Smashwords, but that will mean reformatting, so might take a while.

Enjoyed the exert? Then go across to The Five Day Writer and tweet/facebook/share the love!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Sometime You Just Need To Have Faith and ROW 80

Believe In Yourself, Before It Seems Possible

Whenever you send off a new lot of agent queries, there are a series of stages you go through, a bit like grief.

1. Usually within a day you get a bunch of immediate 'no's. Hopefully this will be because they are no longer taking submissions, or haven't even bothered to open your file (sad, but better than they read it and thought you were .... not so good.) It can be traumatic, but at least you got a response, which is slightly cheering. 

2. A few days later you start getting the 'no's which have taken a bit more time about it. At first this was exciting to me, because I thought the messages were personalised. I then realised that no, it just sounded that way, and they were all stock standard.

3. If you are lucky, you then get a few messages a few weeks later saying they are 'reviewing'. 

4. If you are very, very lucky, you will get a email asking for a proposal or partial manuscript. 

5. Then you start getting a new round of rejections from these.

6. Finally, after about three months, so a quarter of a year later, you realise that the other half of the agents you queries are just never going to get back to you. 

So you start all over again. 

And with every new beginning, you get the same excitement, that this might be the time, and the same slow, drawn out, drip-fed rejection. 

Having just sent off a new bunch of agent queries last Saturday (Sunday?) I have already got two rejections, and 5 I haven't heard from (which, in a week isn't too bad. Hopefully it means the 5 might actually be reading the query). 

I still have that outstanding 'We are reviewing' which I haven't heard back from, so there is a bit of hope there.

But on Wednesday was feeling a bit down about it all. 

So, I decided it was time to have faith in myself. Time to show the world that I believe in my book, no matter what!

As a result, I have bought a bottle of Rose Sparkling Wine (Zibbibo by Brown Brothers, a favourite with a long story behind it for my sister and I, which might have involved running around London on Christmas Eve trying to find a bottle shop that sold Australian wines...) and it's in my fridge, waiting to be popped. Because it will happen! I will get an agent and then a publisher for Sally Hunt, my Young Adult Christian series!

Also, I found this website through a post on Nathan Bransford blog, and I highly recommend it to anyone that wants a bit of procrastination:

The results of 5 minutes of playing around on it:

How awesome is that? So many things you could do with it! 
Totally made my day. (Along with the thought of sparkling Rose.)

So ROW80 Goals:
This week hasn't gone as planned, but it never does. I didn't check in on Wednesday, for the first time this round (which is my first round ever). I was just exhausted, and that sort of continued. 
I did get an article written and submitted to Unique Article Wizard (aff). 
I got only 1 good post per blog, and only spent 1 strong session working on the theology book, so a bit behind there. But at least I'm further ahead than I was this time last week. Forward is always a good direction to be going in.

I also finished editing The Five Day Writer's Retreat, worked quite a bit on editing the webpage, and preparing for the launch in a week's time. 

I just want to say, it will feel so fantastic to have something out there. My book, for sale, on Amazon (and my website, and Smashwords, and through affiliates, etc.). 

So This week's Goals:
It's all about the launch. 
I want to create Buzz. 
I want to get people excited.
I want to get the word out there!

Practically, how am I going to do that?
- mock up a full version for advance release for people to review and promote (anyone interested?)
- beg other kind bloggers to let me do a guest blog, to review it, or even run giveaways with the book (happy to provide free books, if you are prepared to run the giveaway.) 
- write more articles linking back to The Five Day Writer website. 
- Keep promoting my promotion: buy the book and receive a personal proposal or sample chapter appraisal.

Also, in there I'll be organising my 30th birthday which will be a combined book launch/birthday party. 

Exciting times, no?

And after the launch, when it is all running smoothly and the book is out there, then I'll be focusing on my two blogs and breathing life back into them. Just you watch.

So, anyone interested in reviewing The Five Day Writer's Retreat, acting as an affiliate selling it (am offering 50% commission), or happy to run a giveaway on their blog about it? 
Just let me know!

Friday, 1 March 2013

Let Me Help You!

Dear All,

First of all, a big thank you to everyone for your support of my upcoming book launch. The Five Day Writer's Retreat is still set to come out on the 10th of March (even if I'm slightly greyer by then). I've been a bit distracted this week trying to arrange different things.

Particularly, I've been thinking about ways I can offer THE MOST value to the readers of my ebook.

I've been umming and ahhing over the pricing of the book. Very originally I wasn't going to sell it, it was just going to be for those who signed up for my newsletter.

However, as I wrote the book, I realised how much great content was in it. I'm stilling offering it for the first week to anyone who signs up to my newsletter, but decided to sell it as well.

But I want people to be dedicated to the program. I want to reach people who are at the stage of actually wanting to invest in their personal development as a writer, and are prepared to actually follow through with the book. I want people that CHOOSE writing.

So I've priced it the same as a movie and a cheap dinner for one. If you aren't prepared to give up one night's entertainment, you aren't yet at the stage of committing to your career as a writer that will get the most of out of the book.

The RRP is going to be $34.95.

However, I still want to offer as much value to my readers as possible. So therefore, I'm offering a pretty amazing bonus (if I do say so myself).

As a tertiary writing tutor, I get paid a rather large amount (much larger than $35, or even double, triple that) for teaching groups of four or more students.

However, as an Oxford trained tutor, though, I'm very conscious that one on one consultations are much, much more effective than group classes. That is why the Oxbridge system is famous, each student has a one on one tutorial every week where they present their writing and their tutor rips it apart, then they come back next week with another essay, and the tutor keeps pushing them to become a better scholar and a better writer.

So, to encourage everyone that is ready to take the next step with their writing, everyone who buys the book (either from Amazon, Smashwords or directly from The Five Day Writer) I'm offering a bonus of a half hour personal critique of their writing proposal or sample chapter. 

I'm sorry, I'm not offering this to those who get the book through the newsletter, but you at least get the book! And if you want, you can buy a copy for someone else, and use the special offer for yourself :D

So, for the price of a cheap night out, you get a week of retreat and teaching to improve your writing, and then personalised help.

I might eventually have to put an end date on this offer, and people might need to be patient in waiting for their review, but I want to offer it for as long as I can.

Sound like a good deal? 

Finally, to help me spread the word, I'm offering 10 free advanced copies for 100 First Drafters who would be prepared to review it in Amazon/Smashwords and/or on their blog (writing platform of choice). You don't have to say only nice things, I want truthful appraisals (though maybe you could give me the negative feedback before the launch so I could try and fix it up!)

It might not be the fully formatted version, and you might only get it a few days before the launch, so preferably you would have time to read it this weekend, as I would love some feedback and perhaps some testimonials to go on the sales page. 

Interested? Email me at and let me know why you would like a copy of The Five Day Writer's Retreat.

Also, anyone have any great ideas for launching your own book? All advice kindly sought!